Pass the climate change bill again

And governor, this time go ahead and sign it

IN VETOING  An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy,Gov, Charlie Baker contradicted his stated commitment to climate leadership, undermined the state’s clean energy sector, and dealt a[nother] blow to environmental justice communities in the Commonwealth.

The explanation provided in a five-page letter falsely pits economic growth against climate, health, and equity in a state that has historically demonstrated an ability to support a clean energy transformation to the benefit of its residents and economy rather than to the detriment of either.

The Legislature, in refiling the bill and promising to send it back to the governor’s desk, is giving our Commonwealth another chance to take bold and necessary action to address the greatest challenge of our lifetime. It is critical that we take it.

Increasingly, extreme weather caused by climate change ravages our natural and built environments causing billions in damaged infrastructure, inaccessible or inoperable facilities, and homes left uninhabitable by flooding and eroding coastlines. In 2020, Massachusetts experienced its worst drought in four years following prolonged stretches of dry weather that induced water restrictions and increased fire risks. And warming waters are creating uninhabitable conditions for the natural resources on which our state’s multi-million-dollar seafood industry depends.

Our health is on the line, too. Vector-borne disease is on the rise and extreme heat, occurring with greater frequency, remains the number one weather-related killer in the country. Burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, but long-term exposure to higher-than-average levels of particulate matter causes some of the most severe health impacts — asthma, diabetes, and heart and lung diseases. These impacts are at their worst in low-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately burdened by the generational effects of discriminatory policies.

In the face of such present and indisputable consequences, it is time to confront and let go of the false narratives that have stood in the way of ambitious climate and clean energy policy to date. A climate-smart Commonwealth is a healthy Commonwealth, one whose businesses, residents, and communities thrive, economically and otherwise. We must call out decisions to block much-needed policy change for what they really are — a choice to accede to those who have used their influence to stall progress on this issue for years, and a choice to continue ignoring the mountains of evidence showing that a smart climate plan will in fact bolster our economy and protect our most vulnerable communities that are already shouldering many of the impacts of the climate crisis.

The climate roadmap bill, if passed again by the Legislature in its original form, will anchor in our state the economic power that comes with developing the nation’s leading offshore wind industry, and remove barriers to solar for low-income residents. It will spur investments in clean energy and solidify Massachusetts as a global hub for cutting-edge technology and innovation. It will deliver much-needed investment to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and workforce development programs that will create a pipeline for good-paying green jobs in communities throughout the state.

The bill, in conjunction with the housing choice, multi-family zoning reforms, and smart growth policies signed into law recently, will normalize highly efficient building design and open up access to efficiency programs to those who reside in affordable housing. It will prioritize the health of environmental justice populations who for too long have experienced the disproportionate impacts of pollution and who will bear the brunt of harm caused by climate change.

Meet the Author

Eugenia Gibbons

Clean energy program director, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance
Meet the Author

David Gasson

Chair, Alliance for Business Leadership
Meet the Author

Will Havemeyer

Co-chair, Alliance for Business Leadership Climate and Energy Council
There are moral, environmental, health, and economic reasons to move on these matters swiftly. We do not expect to solve the crises we face with a single piece of legislation. However, this particular piece of legislation will set in motion an economically-sound, equitable, clean energy transformation that is aligned with the net zero future that the next generation deserves. We urge the Legislature to pass the bill previously sent to the governor’s desk. When it is delivered to the governor a second time for his signature, we implore him to sign it.

Eugenia Gibbons is the Boston director of climate policy at Health Care Without Harm and member of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table. David Gasson is the executive director of the housing advisory group and chair of the board of directors of the Alliance for Business Leadership. Will Havemeyer is a co-chair of the Alliance for Business Leadership’s Climate and Energy Council and an energy executive in Boston.